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Dr. Ali Watts, Assistant Clinical Professor of Higher Education at the University of Utah

Third-generation Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is an increasingly common approach for studying organizational learning, particularly by scholars and practitioners espousing commitments to equity-minded and transformative change. This talk troubles the theory, however, by exploring what is rendered imaginable when we reject CHAT’s dominant focus on recognizing and resolving “critical disturbances” in the system—moments of contradiction between espoused motivations or theories of action and the actual practice of the system.

In this talk, Dr. Ali Watts argues that CHAT approaches may benefit from embracing messy, wayward, curved, and crooked relations—celebrating “queer lines” (those that refuse normative, straightened, (re)productive alignments) as sites of dynamic relationality, nonrepresentational frictions, and radical experimentation. Diffracting CHAT theorizing through the work of Sara Ahmed, José Esteban Muñoz, and Jack Halberstam prompts a new series of questions about how to grapple with (without ever presuming resolution of) the role of power, identity, emotion, and historicity within social learning activities, and offers an invitation to imagine how ‘embracing the mess’ of organizational change might allow us to dream education differently.

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